A woman’s “lewd” outfit on Southwest Airlines
Kayla Eubanks used Twitter to document a situation she faced on an October 6 Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Chicago.
Eubanks started by sharing the outfit she was wearing on a Southwest Airlines flight, when she was allegedly told that her boobs were “lewd, obscene, and offensive.”
She claimed that a Southwest Airlines gate agent “practically did cartwheels to ensure [she] wouldn’t get on this plane.” A gate agent took issue with her outfit, so the passenger asked to see the policy prohibiting what she was wearing.
After over 20 minutes, the gate agent said she couldn’t find the policy but that it does exist, and then asked Eubanks to put on another shirt if she wanted to take that flight.
At this point the captain of the Southwest Airlines flight came out to talk to her, and this guy definitely had the best vibes of any Southwest employee that day. He said “they’re hating on you because you’re looking good, is that right?”
Understandably Eubanks was agitated, but I appreciate how the captain remained calm, tried to deescalate the situation, and came up with a backup plan. He showed empathy to Eubanks while not totally throwing his company under the bus, which is a tough balance to strike. I imagine many other airline employees would have gone on a power trip at this point, but that’s not what he did. Kudos.
The captain eventually loaned the woman his shirt so that she could fly. She took it off during the flight, and was then told she’d have to speak to someone after landing.
After landing a supervisor confronted her (and Eubanks definitely comes across more reasonable than the supervisor, in my opinion):
- He claimed she didn’t “have very many clothes on up at the top”
- The supervisor claimed that her top “reveals quite a bit,” and Eubanks asked if she should “leave them at home” next time (referring to her breasts)
- Eubanks went on to say “I don’t understand how my body parts are obscene, it’s not like my nipple is showing, it’s not like I have a picture of a vagina, it’s not like I have curse words, that would be obscene”
- She asked the supervisor “who are my boobs offensive to?” and he responded “maybe others on the aircraft”
- The supervisor tried to ask for her ID, though maybe he should be more focused on wearing a mask correctly?
Following the incident, Southwest Airlines reached out to Eubanks to apologize for the experience, and to provide her a refund of her fare as a gesture of goodwill.
What is Southwest Airlines’ dress code?
What is Southwest Airlines’ dress code, actually?
“Regarding our policies, each situation is very different, and our employees are responsible for following our Contract of Carriage, available on our website.”
Southwest Airlines’ contract of carriage notes the airline can remove people for:
“Engaging in lewd, obscene or patently offensive behavior, including wearing clothes that are lewd, obscene or patently offensive”
Southwest Airlines is in the wrong here
People often struggle to differentiate between how people might dress on planes in an ideal world, and what is lewd. They’re not the same thing, though, and that’s important to recognize:
- Personally I wouldn’t even wear flip flops or a tank top on a plane (in fairness, I’m weird, and tend to wear shoes and long pants even to the beach); regardless, my preferences shouldn’t dictate other peoples’ rights, and unless you’re Michelle Visage on RuPaul’s Drag Race, mind your own business when it comes to what other people are wearing
- I know other people think that I’m underdressed to fly in premium cabins (I’m a fan of “athleisure”), and think everyone should dress up when they get on planes
- We can argue all day about whether airlines should have stricter dress codes, but the reality is that they currently don’t
If you ask me, if the rules are just that you can’t wear clothes that are “lewd, obscene, or patently offensive,” then enforcement should just include:
- Covering all your “private” parts in a way you might expect in a “PG” rated movie
- Not wearing any clothes that have cuss words or other highly offensive images or phrases on them (and please let’s not debate that here, because it’s not relevant)
Frankly it’s hard to view this as anything but sexist:
- Would this be considered “lewd” or “obscene” at a beach?
- If the woman’s breasts were smaller, would this outfit still have been considered “lewd” or “obscene?”
- I see guys flying all the time in those tanks that essentially have the sides cut open so you can see their entire side profile and nipples, so how is that any less “lewd” or “obscene” then this?
Should airlines have stricter dress codes? I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another. I’m not opposed to that. But if the extent of a dress code is avoiding “lewd” or “obscene” outfits, then I think it’s unreasonable to single out a woman’s physique when she’s covering all of her “private” parts.
A Southwest Airlines gate agent tried to kick off a woman for what she was wearing, even though she wasn’t able to find a policy supporting this. The captain ended up letting this woman borrow his shirt for the flight, though it shouldn’t have come down to that.
It’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between how people would ideally dress on a plane, and what can be considered lewd or obscene. It simply can’t come down to individual employees to decide what’s appropriate and what isn’t, especially when rules are as vague as they are.
Also, one last point — when will airlines learn that trying to pick these kinds of fights, especially when someone is recording, is unlikely to end well for them?
What do you make of this Southwest outfit situation?